Kickstart Your Meditation Practice with Guided Apps

Want guided meditation practice? We weigh the pros and cons of the top apps.

Headspace
Pros: Created by Brit Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, Headspace has taken the world by storm and it’s easy to see why: It provides simple, unpretentious exercises with relatable life examples that give meaning to meditation. In other words, in its quest to make meditation easy, it also shows you why you should meditate and how it can help improve your day-to-day life.
Cons: The first ten days are free (along with a few extraneous sessions) but after that, the app requires a subscription of $7.99 a month paid as a one-time annual fee.

Insight Timer
Pros: With more than 4,000 guided meditations from a large assortment of teachers, this free app has guidance for any and every situation, from how to practice compassion to how to be in nature to how to manage stress. Plus, it shows you what people nearby are meditating about (you’ll learn a lot about your neighborhood). In all, if you have something you want to meditate on, there’s a high chance you’ll find guidance here.
Cons: There is no starting point or step-by-step guidance along the way, rather it’s like diving into every aspect of meditation and mindfulness unfettered.

Aura
Pros: This simple app promises to help users deal with anxiety, stress and depression, and creates a new customized, three-minute session everyday. But it doesn’t end there: each meditation session is premised on how you’re feeling and then assigns a meditation that works to help you understand those feelings.
Cons: The app is sparse, with one guided meditation each day, which is great for some, but if you’re looking for sessions to choose from each day, this app might not be for you.

Omvana
Pros: Laden with pretty pictures and a variety of choices, the Omvana library contains thousands of choices, ranging from a starter eight-minute session to sessions that guide you through the various emotional stages of mindfulness.
Cons: Out of the thousands of sessions, only about seventy-five of them are free.

Calm
Pros: Every time you open the app, you are greeted by a soothing sound, from rain falling to crickets chirping. Choose from a variety of meditations, sixteen of which are free, that range from a body scan session to a 7 Days of Calm session. You can also choose a goal for meditation, be it sleeping better or breaking bad habits. Calm was Apple’s favorite app of the year.
Cons: Some of the more interesting sessions are not free, but with a price of $4.99 per month paid as a one-time annual fee, it’s fairly affordable for a subscription app.

Stop, Breathe and Think
Pros: This app not only provides mindfulness meditation sessions, it helps you understand what it is and why it can work. You are then given thirty free sessions with a variety of topics
to get rolling, as well as soundscapes to meditate to on your own.
Cons: There are only about thirty free sessions, then the cost goes up to $5.83 per month paid as a one-time annual fee.

Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in a May 2018 cover package on mindfulness and meditation.

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